People who use medical marijuana more likely to use and misuse other prescription drugs

Can medical marijuana help to fight the opioid epidemic? Many believe that it can. But a new study finds that people who use medical marijuana actually have higher rates of medical and non-medical prescription drug use — including pain relievers. The study appears in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, the official journal of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), published by Wolters Kluwer.

Rather than being at lower risk, people who use medical marijuana may be at higher risk for non-medical prescription drug use, suggests the study by Theodore L. Caputi, BS of University College Cork’s School of Public Health and Keith Humphreys, PhD, of Stanford University. However, an accompanying commentary questions whether medical cannabis is the cause of higher prescription drug use, or whether other factors explain the association.

Full story at Science Daily

‘Alarmingly high’ risk of death for people with opioid use disorder in general medical care

Almost one-fifth of patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) in a large healthcare system died during a four-year follow-up period, reports a study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, the official journal of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.

The results suggest very high rates of serious illness and death among patients with OUD in general medical care settings — much higher than for those in addiction specialty clinics, according to by Yih-Ing Hser, PhD, of University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues. They write, “The alarmingly high morbidity and mortality among OUD patients revealed in the present study challenge healthcare systems to find new and innovative ways to expand evidence-based strategies for OUD in a variety of settings.”

Full story of death risk for opioid users in general medical care at Science Daily

Cigna and Addiction Specialists Team Up to Study Which Treatments are Working

The health insurance company Cigna is teaming up with the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) to study which substance abuse treatments are effective, Forbes reports.

The company will provide two years of medical claims data to ASAM, who will work with health researchers at Brandeis University to test and validate which treatments are working. All patient names have been removed to ensure confidentiality.

The results could be used to develop guidelines for Cigna and other health insurers to establish protocols for doctors and other mental health providers, the article notes.

“When it comes to substance abuse, there are not clear guidelines,” said Dr. William Lopez, Cigna’s Senior Medical Director for Behavioral Health. “Our position is that we want to individualize the treatments and by having some guidelines that are more holistic, we will attain that goal. We want to move from volume to value.”

Full story of Cigna and ASAM studying substance abuse treatments at drugfree.org

Commentary: New ASAM Policy Statement on Marijuana Emphasizes Public Health and Safety

The national discussion on the legal status of marijuana has been a hot-button issue since Colorado became the first state to legalize the recreational use and retail manufacturing and sale of the substance in 2012. Since then, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. have also legalized cannabis use for adults, in addition to the 23 states and Washington, D.C. that have legalized cannabis for non-FDA-approved medicinal uses under state law. In light of these recent societal and political experiments surrounding the regulation of marijuana and with legalization ballot initiatives expected in several states in 2016, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) updated their policy statement on marijuana so that it speaks to the broad public health and safety aspects of such measures.

ASAM’s new Policy Statement on Marijuana, Cannabinoids and Legalization is the result of a months-long research and writing process that was spearheaded by Drs. Michael Miller, Norm Wetterau and Jeff Wilkins, and overseen by ASAM’s Public Policy Committee. This timely, new statement details the latest research on the health and public health effects of marijuana use, as well as the potential medicinal benefits of particular cannabinoids. It also discusses the political and social attitudes about marijuana that inform the current debate around legalization, and differentiates efforts to decriminalize marijuana use with efforts to legalize marijuana for commercial distribution and sale.

Full story of new ASAM policy on marijuana at drugfree.org